August 25th, 2011

Keeping a Tight-knit Clubhouse – Mark DeRosa

A couple weeks ago, when Matt Cain lost his second 2-1 game in a row, he stood up in front of reporters like he always does and took the blame. When I read his quotes the next day, I went over to him. I told him that every hitter in this clubhouse knows he ought to be pointing fingers at us. I told him that we as an offense feel horrible and we’re doing everything we can to figure out how to score more runs for the pitchers.

And I especially wanted him to know that we are acutely aware that he and the rest of the pitching staff are being extraordinarily kind in their public comments.

There’s only so many times you can pitch your heart out and not get any support from your team. Eventually it can cause a rift in the clubhouse. I’ve seen it happen on other teams. We’ve got such a tight-knit clubhouse. And you want to keep it that way because it’s a big part of winning baseball.

That’s why it’s so important that the pitchers know we understand their frustration. We watch TV. We read the papers. We know that Cain has gotten one run or less in 12 of his 26 starts. We know that we haven’t scored a single run for Timmy in 10 of his 27 starts. Our starters have ERAs hovering in the three’s, and Timmy’s at two and a half.  You’re two and a half in today’s game and you’re nasty. You should be leading the league in wins.

I remember talking to Greg Maddox when we played together in Atlanta. We’d lose a close one and he’d be absolutely fine on the plane. I asked him one day, “Why are you OK with that?’’ And he said, “Well, I did my job. I can’t control the other things. I can only control my job.’’

I think that’s a great way to look at it, but when it starts becoming the norm, it’s got to frustrate you. And all it takes is one comment to cause a riot in the clubhouse, one comment said the wrong way. So you don’t allow that to happen. You go out to dinner with the pitchers and talk about it. You go up to a guy in the clubhouse and deal with things before they become an issue.

I’ve been on a lot of teams over the years, but I’ve never been on a team that has gone so cold offensively for such an extended period of time to where it almost has become more mental than physical. You’ve got guys pressing, trying to do too much, not staying with consistent approaches. Everyone’s trying to be the hero and get hot and get us going. But it seems to just push us more and more down.

And believe me, we take it personally. There’s not a guy in here who doesn’t take it personal. We have too good a team not to make it to the postseason. We have the greatest atmosphere in baseball right now in our home park. The most loyal fans. They deserve for us to go back to postseason. They’ve supported us all year.

I’ve also never been on a team with so many injuries to key players. We don’t have Andres Torres at the top of the order who ignited everything. You take him away, then you take away your No. 2 and No. 3 hitters, Freddy and Buster, and it’s going to cripple you. It’s not that easy to replace really, really, really good players. Players are not interchangeable parts. Then Sabes goes out and makes two great trades to replace them, and those guys get hurt.

We’ve done a great job of grinding, but at the same time, no one’s going to wait around, no one’s going to feel sorry for us. We got 30-some odd games to find a way to get into the postseason. I think when we get in, everyone will take a deep breath and then we’ll be dangerous again.

In the meantime, we have to stick together as a team. You have four months to be an individual player. I know everyone says that’s not the case but everyone plays for numbers the first four months of the season. But now it’s team first at all costs.

Which is why I’m not lobbying Bochy to give me more starts.  He started me in Houston over the weekend, and I played well. Given the opportunity, I know I can help the team. That being said, I know with the struggles I’ve had with the wrist, I understand Boch opting for another guy. Two or three times over the course of my contract, I’ve asked for Bochy to give me a chance, and he’s given it. I won’t do it now. We’re in a different situation. If we were 10 games up, maybe he would give me a little more of a look. But we’re two games out and he feels he’s got to go with his big guns. All I can do is keep working hard and hoping to get into a situation where I get a big at-bat and come through and prove that I can still play and contribute.

In any case, it’s a great chance for me to be a mentor to some younger guys. And to keep showing support for our pitchers in the clubhouse until we can show more support on the field.